Jon Buice, who, as a plea deal, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the murder of a gay man in 1991, has been granted parole and may be released by next October, the Houston Chronicle reports.
In Montrose in 1991, Buice and nine other juveniles from The Woodlands—who would infamously become known as “The Woodlands 10”—brutally attacked three gay men outside of a nightclub. Buice stabbed Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old banker, in the stomach twice, and Broussard ultimately died from the wounds.
Broussard's mother, Nancy Rodriguez, was hoping Buice would serve at least 27 years—one for every year that her son was alive—and not be released until 2018. As she told the Chronicle Monday, “In my heart I feel that he's going to hurt somebody else.”
But gay-rights activist Ray Hill, who originally led the charge against Buice with various demonstrations and who rallied the media to devote front-page coverage to the story, was among those supporting Buice's release. In fact, Hill has become one of Buice's largest supporters.
Hill, after realizing that it was his protesting and media firestorm that may have contributed to Buice's lengthy sentence, befriended Buice and worked to show the parole board and the public that Buice was remorseful and had been rehabilitated. He questioned whether Buice and the other attackers actually targeted Broussard because he was gay, or if the attack simply fueled by drugs and alcohol without any intent to kill. He later visited Texas Southern University professor Michael Berryhill's classroom full of journalism students to talk about his role in the media coverage of Broussard's murder.
“I called it a bashing, and we demonstrated," Hill told the class. "I confess to being a media manipulator.”
Berryhill penned a letter to the parole board in support of Buise's release and also wrote an essay published on the acclaimed criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast about the media's role in the case. In an interview with the Press, Berryhill cited details repeated in the media and originally by Hill, such as the fact that attackers beat Broussard with a board of nails and that Buice gutted Broussard with the knife, as those that have not been verifiable or have been disproved in a recent documentary on the case, “The Guy with a Knife.”
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“There was a lot of publicity on the case. He ended up pleading, so there was never a court hearing,” Berryhill said. “There was never any verification of any details, of anything. So people could say what they wanted to say about it.”
Buice was first granted parole in 2011, only for the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole to reverse its decision shortly afterward amid the public outcry sparked by word of Buice's release. Andy Kahan, a victims-rights advocate for the City of Houston, told KHOU about Monday's decision to release Buice: “We had anticipated, and certainly hoped, that it would be denied. ...This decision sends chills down not only to Nancy's family but to other families of murdered children in hoping that they don't have to undergo the same ordeal.”
Berryhill said he expects Kahan to again fight the decision. But he added that the difference for the parole board this time may in fact have been Alison Armstrong's documentary, which included interviews with Kahan, Nancy Rodriquez, other gay-rights activists, reporters from the era, and, among others, Ray Hill.
“Ray was willing to walk back his greatest media success,” Berryhill said. “He was not about to let these kids' lives be destroyed. And that's something. That's something about what it means to be human and not just set on revenge.”